Becoming A ‘Parent’ To My Parent

adult helping senior in hospital

My mother was 84 years old when she passed away in March of last year. Everyone in our family mourned of her loss but at the same time was relieved that she now can finally rest in peace from her long suffering illness. We have prayed to God to extend her life, but we have also surrendered to His sovereignty; God has been in control of my mother’s life.

My parents live in the Philippines and I live in the United States with Moses and our 2 young children. We did our best to visit them every other year because they were getting old and I wanted our children to build memories with their grandparents while they are still able to walk and talk.

My mother was a strong woman but her years of smoking took its toll. In 2007, she broke her left hip and underwent  a successful hip replacement. After months of extensive physical therapy, she regained her strength and was able to walk around town again.

The following year, she broke her other right hip and a new replacement was needed for her to be able to walk again. Because her health was deteriorating, the surgeon advised to postpone the operation until her body gets stronger. After several months, her health was declining instead of getting better. She couldn’t walk at all and just relied from the assistance of her caregiver.  .

When my mother started getting seriously ill and was visiting the hospital more often, my husband and I decided to see her for a longer time in 2009.  My dad, my 2 other siblings and a caregiver were caring for her 24/7 and I wanted to personally care for her as well.

In the Philippines, there are no nursing homes for the sick and elderly. It is the immediate family who cares for them and for some who can afford it, they hire  a helper or a caregiver to assist them especially if they have full time jobs.

I love my mother dearly and i will do what it takes to make her feel she is loved and cared for. My mother did her best raising me up and made sacrifices to be a great parent to me. It is now my opportunity to serve her and my turn to be a ‘parent’ to my parent.

When I saw her again, I could feel her hopelessness. I cried seeing her physical condition. She was very frail and weak. The following days of my stay, I got to fully care for her. I prepared her food, fed her, bathe her, massaged her whole body and tucked her to bed. I read to her scriptures of hope and encouragement.

I brought home a special food blender so it’s easier for her to swallow the food. I also purchased a toilet and bath chair that is designed for elderly people which we don’t usually have in the Philippines. Because she was lying down on her bed most of the time, she developed bed sores. I had to clean them and apply the ointment every 6 hours until the flesh dried up. I could feel my mothers physical pain. I retired every night with a heavy heart and I allowed myself to cry until i fell asleep.

During my stay, I rearranged some of the furniture in her bedroom to accommodate her wheelchair so she can have easier access to everything she needed. I had our kitchen and dining room remodeled as well. It was a huge undertaking for a very short period of time but i had to do what is best for her.

Although my mother was barely talking, I could sense she was asking for help. She wanted to walk again. I asked her if she is ready to have another hip replacement and she nodded without hesitation. We went to see her doctor to check whether she is physically able to have another major operation.

After a week of testing, her surgeon said she can be operated but it is going to be risky. If she will go under the knife again, she may lose a lot of blood and may not make it. I took a deep breath and communicated clearly to my mother about the risks, that she may possibly die on the operating table.

She whispered to me “I am ready to take the risk.” I realized she was making a ‘matter of life and death’ decision because I was committed to see her get better. For her, as long as i am physically beside her, it is going to be okay. She has a deep faith in God and i knew she was praying for a successful operation but I also understood she was also drawing her strength from me.

So the date was set and we prepared for the big day. My dad was not 100% on board with my mother’s decision not because he didn’t care, he was just extremely scared of the possibility that she may not make it. I had to be the one to sign a Waiver of Responsibility. The surgeon and the hospital are not liable in any case something happens to my mother during the surgery.

On the day of her operation, I told my sister I didn’t have the courage to be at the hospital. Instead, i checked-in to a hotel and prayed overnight. I pleaded to God to help my mom’s weak body handle the operation. We were all praying for a successful surgery. He granted our prayers and praised Him for his faithfulness.

I wanted to stay longer to assist in her recovery but Moses and my two young kids are waiting for me in America. On my flight back home, I had the time to recollect my memories with my parents when i was younger. I was grateful God gave me the chance to care for my mother even for a very short time. There was peace and joy in my heart.

When did they start looking so old? You keep thinking of them being the same two people they were when you were in high school, but they’re not. One day you just looked up and your parents were older or had become ill. That’s when it hits you that you might have to take care of them, like they once have taken care of you. Now is the time to start making plans and restructuring your life in order to be able to take care of your parents.

The first thing you need to do if possible is talk with your parents to see what plans they have made for their future. No one wants to get older or sick where they can’t take care of themselves, but sometimes in life that will happen. When you realize that has happen to your parents, it’s time to talk to them about their future.

Have they provided a way for themselves to be taken care of from illness or if they have become too old to take care of themselves? Will you be totally responsible for their well being in the future? Have a family discussion about their future plans, so everyone will know where they stand.

Once the decision has been made that you will take care of them from old age or illness, you should start preparing your life for that right then. Taking care of your parents is going to be a big adjustment for you and your family.

The aging parent/child relationship cannot and must not supersede the relationship between husband and wife as first priority, as this goes against the marriage vows spoken before God and witnesses to “leave and cleave unto each other”, thereby creating needless stress and strain on the marital relationship. It is extremely important to understand the difference between caring for needs versus wants, as taking care of elderly parents can often lead adult children to become enablers of their own parents without realizing it.

Some elderly parents can be very difficult to deal with, perhaps even controlling and manipulative, in a selfish attempt to dictate the lives and activities of family members. Some may even claim they are unable to care for basic needs when in reality they are fully capable physically and mentally, but choose to expect family members to cater to their every want and whim.

Having your parents move into your house will mean changes for everyone. Once you feel they will be at an age where someone else will have to take care of them, start preparing your household now. Start putting into place right now their living arrangements, especially if they’re going to be living with you. Everyone in your household need to start adapting to this living arrangement before they actually move-in.

You might have to make changes to your household from reconstruction of your property for more space, to adapting to having extra people in your house. If possible try to have separate living quarters built for your parents so they can still have some privacy, along with you. If your parents have to go to a nursing home start looking around now for a place.

You want them to be somewhere, where you and they both can feel comfortable and it’s convenient for you to get to them. Start looking early for the right place that will meet all of their requirements. If your parents are going to live with you because of an illness, start setting up your household for whatever they might need to be comfortable through-out their illness.

If they need special equipment or a nurse, start arranging that in plenty of time and not at the last minute before they have to move-in. Having an area set-up with the right equipment for all of their medical needs will make their stay more comfortable and healthy.

Changes like that to your household don’t need to happen overnight, you and your family need time to prepare mentally and physically for these changes. Planning ahead for this is the best way for everyone to deal with this change that will affect everyone’s life. When the realization finally does happen that your parents can’t take care of themselves anymore, this will be hard for the both of you.

Watching my parents turn older or becoming ill is one of the hardest things I have to go through. In my eyes I want to always see my parents, young, active and alert, unfortunately that won’t happen. As time go on our parents will get older or sick with something and need us more than ever. That’s the one thing all of us want to do is to provide for the people we love, when they can’t provide for themselves.

Taking care of your parents will make you feel good and if you have children, it will be a good example for them. Who knows, one day they just might have to take care of you.

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